Air of Authority - A History of RAF Organisation
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Numbers in the 600 series were originally allocated to squadrons of the Auxiliary Air Force. However, the AAF had only reached No 616 by the outbreak of World War Two, and further squadrons starting at 617 began to be formed from 1943 onwards.
Formed at Northolt on 14 October 1925 as a light bomber squadron in the Auxiliary Air Force. Initially equipped with DH9As, it later received Wapiti's in August 1929 and Harts in January 1935. It continued in the bomber role until 1 July 1934 when it was redesignated a fighter squadron, but it was February 1937 before the first Demons arrived, conversion being complete by April. Blenheims arrived in January 1939 and although originally intended to operate both in the day and night role. In February 1940 Fg Off Tollimarche won a George Cross as a result of attempting to rescue his passenger following a crash landing in which his aircraft caught fire. Not expected to live he actually recovered, becoming one of the first 'Guinea Pigs'.
The day the Germans invaded France and the Low Countries, 10 May 1940, the squadron dispatched 6 a/c to attach Waalhaven Airfield in Rotterdam. 5 of the 6 were shot down by German Bf 110's and 7 aircrew killed, including Sqn Ldr "Jimmy" Wells the CO. As a result of operations like this it soon became obvious that the Blenheim was not suitable for the day fighter role. However, the squadron soon adapted to the night fighter role and was one of the first units to use Airborne Interception (AI) radar. Beaufighters replaced the Blenheims in September 1940 and it continued to operate this type until 1945.
It moved to North Africa in November 1942, Malta in June 1943 and finally to Italy in September 1943, continuing to operate in the night fighter/intruder role throughout. Mosquitos were received in January 1945 which were retained until the squadron disbanded on 21 August 1945.
With the reactivation of the Royal Auxiliary Air Force, 600 was reformed on 10 May 1946 at Biggin Hill as a day fighter squadron under the command of under Sqn Ldr Norman Hayes, who had flown the only Blenheim to make it back from the raid on Rotterdam on 10 May 1940. It was initially equipped with Spitfire F14Es, F21s and F 22s, until March 1950 when Meteor F 4s began to arrive, the squadron being fully re-equipped by November. These were replaced by F 8s in November 1951 but along with all the flying units of the RAuxAF, it was disbanded on 10 March 1957.
With the decision to resurrect the RAuxAF squadron numbers, it was reformed from No 1 (County of Hertford) MHU in 2001 and is designated HQ Augmentation Squadron.
No 600 is the only squadron in the RAF to have two official badges, the explanation for which I give here in the words of the 600 Squadron historian, Flt Lt Robin van Geene: -
"The one featuring the City of London crest is called "The Dustcart Crest" as the City badge is found on all vehicles operated by the Corporation of The City of London. The second badge is called "The Moon and Paperknife" from the City dagger crossing the crescent moon. The design was decided on when the Sqn was based in N Africa and represents the Squadron's role as a Night Fighter unit at that time. Post war, on the reformation of the Sqn at Biggin Hill as a day fighter Sqn the Officers reverted to the original crest. This was unofficial until the CO, Sqn Ldr David Proudlove spoke to the Honorary Air Commodore about it. She replied that she would "Have a word with her husband about it". As our HAC was HM Queen Elizabeth, and her husband was King George VI, the authorisation of the second (but to us the first) badge quickly followed. The Herald "Chester King of Arms" was against it, but the King was talked around by our HAC and the Dust Cart badge was approved. We now display both badges, but the Dust Cart Badge is the primary badge of the unit."
The squadron also holds two Standards, one official (see above) and one 'unofficial' and the story of the presentation of the first is also given here in Flt Lt van Geene's words: -
"In 1931 Sqn Ldr “Freddie Guest” retired to become the Sqn’s first HAC. He handed over command to Sqn Ldr “Stan” Collett who was posted in from 601Sqn to assume command on promotion. Stan was employed as Assistant Company Secretary of the Great Western Railway, and was the son of Sir Charles Collett who was involved in local government in the City of London.
In 1934 the Sqn was involved in the Hendon Air Pageant, and Sqn Ldr
Collett chose to fly in the Observer’s position of one of the Squadrons Wapiti
aircraft piloted by Fg Off Robert Lea. The
aircraft suffered engine failure on take off
(the subsequent Board of Inquiry actually found that the fuel cock had been
turned off accidentally)
and Lea turned back to the airfield
to make a forced landing. He
stalled and crashed and the aircraft caught fire.
Lea escaped but Collett was knocked unconscious in the crash and died in
the fire. His father was Lord mayor
of London in the year of his death, and a large scale military funeral followed
at St Paul’s Cathedral.
In memory of her son, the Lady Mayoress had a Squadron Standard
embroidered, which was presented to the Squadron by her in 1935. It
was subsequently carried by the Squadron in the Lord Mayor’s Show that
November. At that time, no
formation of the RAF or its reserves was authorised to hold a standard.
In fact the presentation of Standards to the RAF did not begin until
1953. However the Squadron was
given permission to parade with this banner only within the boundary of the City
of London as recognition of it’s personal connection with the Lord Mayoralty.
This custom was extended, and ratified by King George V on 1 April 1935,
so that the Squadron could parade with the banner on St George’s Day of that
year. Photographic evidence exists
in one of the post war Squadron Scrap Books showing the Squadron under command
of Sqn Ldr David Proudlove with the Collett Standard on parade for St Georges
Day 1949. The standard continued to
be paraded through the streets of the City of London on every Lord Mayor’s
Show until the Squadron was disbanded in 1957.
The official records containing the letters authorising the custom
were lost following the disbandment of the Squadron. Currently evidence exists only in the form of the photograph
mentioned above, an article in Flight magazine dated 3 Nov 1949 which mentioned
the custom, a further article written by Wg Cdr J Meadows, ex CO of the Sqn in
Aeroplane Monthly in April 1987 and personal testimony from several members of
the Sqn Association who were on parade when the Collett Standard was carried."
Squadron Codes used: -
Click on the images below to view the photographs in more detail.
All photos courtesy of Sqn Ldr Robin van Geene, Sqn historian for No 600 Sqn.
Formed at Northolt on 14 October 1925 as a light bomber squadron in the Auxiliary Air Force. As one of the first two Auxiliary squadrons, it was May 1926 before flying could begin and this was initially carried out on the Avro 504K. Operational aircraft arrived the following year in the form of DH9As. Wapiti's began arriving in November 1929, but the DH9As continued in use for another year. Conversion to Harts began in February 1933 and was completed by June. It continued in this role until 1 July 1934 when it was redesignated a fighter squadron, however, it was not re-equipped with Demons until August 1937.
Gauntlets arrived in November 1938 but in the following January it began converting to the twin engined Blenheim, which it took to war on patrol in September 1939. Single seat fighters returned in March 1940 with the arrival of Hurricanes. It operated from the UK except for a small detachment sent to France, taking part in the Battle of Britain and later conducting fighter sweeps and escort duties over the continent.
In August 1941, the squadron was chosen to introduce a new type into RAF service, the American Bell P39 Airacobra. However, this type was found totally unsuited to operations in the European environment and in March 1942, 601 reverted to Spitfires. The following month saw the squadron embark for the Middle East, flying off the carrier USS Wasp to join the air battles over Malta. In June the squadron moved to Egypt where it joined the Desert Air Force, continuing to fly operations in North Africa until June 1943 when it moved back to Malta in order to support the invasion of Sicily. It moved into Sicily after the landings and later supported the Eighth Army through Italy until disbanding on 7 May 1945.
With the reactivation of the Royal Auxiliary Air Force, 601 was reformed on 10 May 1946 at Hendon as a day fighter squadron. It was initially equipped with Spitfire LF 16s until December 1949 when Vampire F 3s replaced them fully. These were replaced by Meteor F 8s beginning in August 1952 but along with all the flying units of the RAuxAF, it was disbanded on 10 March 1957.
Motto: None - The reason for this as quoted by Flt Lt Robin van Geene is: -
"600 and 601 Sqns had a great pre war rivalry, being
both formed on the same day, and both based in adjacent hangers at RAF Hendon
(Now the main building of the RAF Museum) When it came to choosing a crest and
motto 601 chose the Latin for "One more than 600" i.e. 601 However
this was considered by the College of Heralds, who never it seems had a sense of
humour, to be a slight on the worthy name of 600 Sqn. The CO of 601 then decided
if he couldn't have the motto he wanted, he wouldn't have a motto at all."
Squadron Codes used: -
Formed at Renfrew on 15 September 1925 as a light bomber squadron in the Auxiliary Air Force, initially equipped with DH9As, these were replaced by Fawns in 1927, Wapiti's in 1929, Harts in 1934 and finally Hinds in 1936. It continued in this role until 1 November 1938 when it was redesignated an Army Co-operation unit and then on 14 January 1939, a fighter squadron.
It had received Hectors in the November, but re-equipped with Gauntlets on conversion to the fighter role. These were short-lived as Spitfires arrived in May 1939. Like 603, it spent the early part of the war and Battle of Britain on defensive duties in Scotland, but in August 1940 it moved south to join the Battle, returning to Scotland in December.
It moved south again in July 1941, remaining for a year before returning to it's native Scotland. Another move came in January 1943, this time to the South-West, where in April it joined the newly forming 2 TAF. It briefly returned to Scotland from January to March 1944, when it returned south prior to taking part in the invasion of Europe.
From the end of June 1944, it operated from advanced airfields in Normandy, following the Army's advance into Belgium until September , when it returned to the UK. From here it carried out operations against V2 sites in Holland until disbanding on 15 May 1945 at Coltishall.
With the reactivation of the Royal Auxiliary Air Force, 602 was reformed on 10 May 1946 at Abbotsinch as a day fighter squadron. It was initially equipped with Spitfire F 14s and F 22, until January 1951 when Vampire FB 5s were received. It also acquired some F 3s in August 1953, which it flew alongside the FB 5s until February 1954. FB 9s arrived in November 1954 and the squadron continued to fly both types (FB 5 and FB 9s) until, along with all the flying units of the RAuxAF, it was disbanded on 10 March 1957. The squadron was reformed on 1 July 2006, when the mission support element of No 603 (City of Edinburgh) Squadron was separated to form a new unit
Squadron Codes used: -
Formed at Turnhouse on 14 October 1925 as a light bomber squadron in the Auxiliary Air Force. Initially equipped with DH9As, it re-equipped with Wapiti's in 1930 and Harts in 1934. It continued in this role until 24 October 1938 when it was redesignated a fighter squadron, although it continued to operate Hinds, which it first received in February 1938, until Mar 1939 when Gladiators arrived.
Shortly after the outbreak of war, it received Spitfires and in October 1939 intercepted the first German raid against the UK mainland during which it brought down the first German aircraft to fall on British soil. It saw action in the south of England from September to December 1940 before returning to Scotland.
It continued to alternate between operations in the south and in Scotland until April 1942 when the squadron moved to the Middle East. It was transported aboard the carrier USS Wasp, from where it flew its Spitfires to Malta. Fighting hard for four months took its toll on the squadron and on 3 August it was effectively disbanded when No 229 Squadron absorbed its few remaining pilots and aircraft.
However, the ground echelon of the squadron had arrived in Cyprus in June 1942 and worked as a servicing unit until moving to Egypt after sic months. The squadron reactivated in February 1943 for operations along the African coast, over the Greek islands and Greece itself, equipped with Beaufighters. Operations continued until December 1944 when the squadron returned to the UK.
By a strange turn of fate the squadron reformed at Coltishall in January 1945, taking over the Spitfires of No 229 Squadron. It now operated on fighter-bomber sweeps over Holland, a role it maintained until April when it returned to Scotland, disbanding at Turnhouse on 15 August 1945.
With the reactivation of the Royal Auxiliary Air Force, 603 was reformed on 10 May 1946 at Turnhouse as a day fighter squadron. It was initially equipped with Spitfire XVIs and F 22, until July 1951 with Vampire FB 5s arriving in May. It continued to fly these until, along with all the flying units of the RAuxAF, it was disbanded on 10 March 1957.
With the decision to resurrect the RAuxAF squadron numbers, it was reformed from No 2 (City of Edinburgh) MHU in October 1999. On 1 July 2006, the mission support element of the squadron was separated from 602 to form a new No 602 (City of Glasgow) Squadron.
Squadron Codes used: -
Formed at Hendon on 17 March 1930 as a light bomber squadron in the Auxiliary Air Force, although it's initial equipment of Wapiti's did not arrive until September, until when it used DH9As. It continued in this role until 23 July 1934 when it was redesignated a fighter squadron. Pending the arrival of Demons, which arrived in June 1935, it was equipped with Harts and in January 1939 it received the Blenheim If.
It became one of the first units to have its aircraft equipped with airborne radar, but some of its early operations were daylight sweeps over the Low Countries. By the time the Battle of Britain started it had reverted to the night fighter role and in September 1940 its first Beaufighter had arrived.
It continued to provide night defence to the UK until early 1943 but with the reduction in German activity over Britain, it began to move over to night intruder operations. In February, the squadron was allocated to 2 TAF and at the same time began conversion to Mosquitos. Operations from Normandy began in August but the following month it returned to the UK, returning to the continent once again in January 1945, remaining there until disbanding on 18 April 1945.
With the reactivation of the Royal Auxiliary Air Force, 604 was reformed on 10 May 1946 at Hendon as a day fighter squadron. It was initially equipped with Spitfire LF 16s but converted to jets in November 1949 when Vampires arrived. These were replaced by Meteor F 8s in August 1952 but along with all the flying units of the RAuxAF, it was disbanded on 10 March 1957.
Squadron Codes used: -
Squadron badge image (except for original 600 Sqn badge) on this page is courtesy of Steve Clements
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